- Be inspired and amazed at 10 of the world’s most famous waterfalls – from Niagara Falls in the US and Canada to Tugela Falls in South Africa
- Expert advice on some of the best waterfalls to see in the Americas, Africa, Europe and Australasia and how to get stunning views
- Everything you need to know – when to travel, incredible histories and fascinating waterfall facts
Dramatic, thrilling, entrancing – it’s no surprise famous waterfalls appear on the bucket lists of enthusiastic travellers. Incredible natural wonders, waterfalls such as Niagara and Gullfoss are truly amazing sights, cascading down in scenic destinations across the continents. Here’s our list of 10 of the most famous waterfalls in the world that should be on anyone’s bucket list.
10 of the world’s most famous waterfalls
Angel Falls, Venezuela
The highest waterfall in the world, dropping 979 metres from a table-top mountain in Venezuela, is the awe-inspiring Angel Falls. Found in the UNESCO-listed Canaima National Park in the eastern state of Bolívar, 807 metres of the famous waterfall is uninterrupted, and when in full flow it’s a mesmerising sight. The best time to visit is between June and November. Indigenously called Kerepakupai-merú, the waterfall’s more well-known name is associated with American aviator Jimmie Angel, who in 1933 saw the magnificent cascade from the sky, allegedly while searching for gold.
Niagara Falls, USA/Canada
Undoubtedly one of most famous waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls sits on the border between the United States and Canada meaning that the thundering attraction can be viewed from either country – though the vantage point from the Canadian side is often cited as being the best. That said, if in western New York State, you get the chance to get up close to all three falls that make up Niagara – Horseshoe, Bridal Veil and American – albeit from the top-down, but still a chance to take in the falls in its entirety.
Iguazú Falls, Argentina/Brazil
On the border between Argentina and Brazil, the Iguazú Falls – known as the Iguassu or Iguaçu Falls – are a major visitor attraction and a highlight of holidays to South America. Consisting of 275 waterfalls and cascades, the Lower and Upper Circuits on the Argentine side are two walking trails that offer breath-taking views from gangways and lookout balconies. Head to the Devil’s Throat, a horseshoe-shaped canyon, and you’ll stare at a huge wall of water over 80 metres high. Arrive late afternoon and, with the sun behind you, it’s a magical sight.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls that stretch 1,708 metres across Zimbabwe and Zambia are indeed beautiful waterfalls and a must-see on holidays to Africa. Explorer David Livingstone was certainly impressed when, in 1855, he became the first European to gaze at the 108-metre-high falls – so much so, he decided to rename them after the reigning British monarch. Mosi-oa-Tunya, their original moniker, means ‘smoke that thunders’, an apt choice as the noise of the Victoria Falls can be heard from a distance of 40km, and their spray felt up to 50km away.
Yosemite Falls, USA
California’s Yosemite National Park is home to countless waterfalls, the most famous and tallest being the majestic Yosemite Falls with a staggering drop of 739 metres. Impressive during the spring when snow on the Sierra Nevada mountains starts to melt, the flow over the waterfall’s three stages is at its most dramatic in late May/early June – note that you’ll possibly only see a trickle of water if you visit the park in August. An accessible-for-all paved walkway provides an easy atmospheric route to the base of the Yosemite Falls.
No trip to Iceland would be complete without taking time out at Gullfoss, one of the country’s most famous waterfalls and undeniably striking on a sunny day when hundreds of rainbows appear in clouds of spray — this is also when you’ll notice its golden-brown colour. Found in the Haukadalur Valley in the upper part of the Hvita river, water in the summer months cascades down the unique-shaped Gullfoss in two stages, falling 32 metres into a deep crevice below. During extreme winters, the waterfall freezes into glistening ice.
Plitvice Falls, Croatia
Croatia’s prettiest and most famous waterfalls are found in the UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park, the country’s oldest and largest park situated halfway between Zagreb and Zadar. A series of around 90 sparkling waterfalls connect 16 turquoise-coloured lakes, with the highest waterfall, Veliki Slap or Great Waterfall, standing 78 metres high. Sastavci Slap is considered the most beautiful waterfall in the park and is situated in serene surroundings near Novakovića Lake. It is affectionately named after a local man who was always seen crossing the lake in his boat.
Sutherland Falls, New Zealand
New Zealand’s famous Sutherland Falls have a wonderfully wild backdrop – a rugged mountain range in Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Area situated near Milford Sound in the country’s South Island. The falls are remote. Walking the challenging Milford Track to the waterfall takes around four days, though you can also book a scenic flight. Sutherland Falls are fed by the small circular Lake Quill, comprise of three almighty leaps totalling 580 metres, and were ‘discovered’ by a Scot, Donald Sutherland, in 1880. While in the park, look out for the rare, endangered and flightless takahē bird.
Rhine Falls, Switzerland
Europe’s largest waterfall, the Rhine Falls, can be found near Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland and fall 23 metres over the full 150-metre width of the Rhine river. While not as high as some other famous waterfalls, the Rhine Falls – thought to have been formed 15,000 years ago – are still a remarkable natural sight and well worth a visit if in the vicinity while on holiday in Europe. At its most theatrical during the spring and summer, when the average water flow doubles, 600,000 litres of water plummets over the falls every second.
Tugela Falls, South Africa
With a drop of 948 metres, Tugela Falls is Africa’s tallest waterfall and an unmissable spectacle if touring near the Royal Natal National Park on a holiday to South Africa. Falling down the Amphitheatre cliff face in the Drakensberg Mountains, water plunges in five distinct consecutive leaps and is at its peak after heavy rain – the summer period from November to February is also the rainy season. Visit after a long spell of dry weather and you may think the Tugela Falls should be called the Tugela Dribbles.
Plan your next adventure and witness the world’s famous waterfalls
When booking your next holiday, why not see if you can incorporate a trip to witness one of the world’s famous waterfalls in full flow? With spectacular waterfalls to be found in Europe, the US, South America, Africa and Australasia, it could be easier than you think.
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